SAN FRANCISCO - Google on Tuesday launched a new online service called "Helpouts," aiming to connect businesses and consumers to solve problems or get advice on a range of issues.
The service is similar to Google's "Hangouts" with live video for paid services in areas ranging from computer tech support to weight loss.
"What if getting help for a computer glitch, a leaky pipe, or a homework problem was as easy as clicking a button?" Google's Udi Manber said in a blog post announcing the new service.
"What if you could get someone knowledgeable to get you 'unstuck' when you really need it?"
Manber said some of the services now are "how to fix your garage door, or how to remove a computer virus; or it might be guidance completing a project, like building a deck. "
But he added that "today is just the beginning. We're starting small and in a few categories."
The categories being offered initially include art and music, computers, cooking, education and careers, fashion and beauty, fitness and nutrition, health and home and garden.
The Helpouts range from free to US$240 (S$298.54) or more. Some examples include chemistry tutoring and homework, learning to play guitar, yoga instruction, French language lessons, fixing computer problems or refrigerator repair.
"With Helpouts, you can choose who you get help from based on their qualifications, their availability, their price, their ratings and reviews," Manber said.
"You can connect instantly or book in advance. You can get help from individuals or from brands you already know and trust, like Sephora, One Medical, Weight Watchers, Redbeacon (a Home Depot company), and Rosetta Stone."
Analyst Greg Sterling of Opus Research said this was Google's third attempt at providing an expert network after Google Answers and Google Knol.
Sterling said on the Marketing Land blog that if the service catches on, it could be a tool for enterprises, business owners and service providers, as well as a way to obtain reviews.
"While Helpouts offers very intriguing potential for individuals and enterprises (think product demos and customer service) there are also many potential pitfalls that could derail Helpouts," Sterling said.
"Free Helpouts are more likely to be marketing efforts for their providers," Sterling said.
"However, will consumers pay for advice? Some will, in certain cases. But in many others, YouTube videos or other free resources online will work just as well."